Using Decision Making to help your ADHD child make better decisons
One of the common symptoms of ADHD or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is impulsivity, which means that children with ADHD make hurried decisions without thinking through the consequences of those decisions. Teens and young adults with ADHD are also prone to addictions, either as a form of self-medication or because they lacked the ability to think through decisions. In a study determining the relationship between addictions and people diagnosed with ADHD it was found that those with ADHD “showed a tendency to commence early and experiment more freely with substance abuse” (Oxford Academy). Because of these tendencies, Decision Making (SODAS Method) is a great tool for a child with ADHD so they can learn a process for making positive decisions.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains that “impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without thinking of the long-term consequences.” Just because children who have been diagnosed with ADHD may lack the skill of decision making doesn’t mean they cannot be taught how to make positive decisions. In fact this is why they should be taught, so they can turn this weakness into a strength.
The SODAS method of Decision Making
The steps of the SODAS method are:
O: Options (3 options to deal with the situations)
D: Disadvantages (3 disadvantages for each option)
A: Advantages (3 advantages for each options)
Before teaching your child the SODAS method, become familiar with the method yourself by watching the skill video and practicing the method on your own. Then, using the skill of Preventive Teaching, establish a neutral time to meet with your child to teach the steps of Decision Making.
Use the SODAS worksheet English or SODAS worhsheet Espanol to illustrate how to make a simple decision with the method. Once the child understands each of the categories, have them complete several scenarios on their own using the worksheet. As your child gets better at using Decision Making, guide them from writing down each scenario to thinking through the steps in their mind. For major decisions that don’t have to be made immediately, writing down SODAS is always a good idea, but a child with ADHD needs to learn how to think through options and the associated disadvantages and advantages quickly in the moment if the skill will benefit them in everyday decisions. Including a timer is a fun way to gauge how fast they can come to a positive solution and can track their improvement over time.
Since children with ADHD tend to have a difficult time focusing and are constantly moving, role-playing provides an active way to learn the skill and will keep their attention. Role-playing also helps your child become comfortable using the skill so they will be more likely to use it in the moment. One creative way to role-play Decision Making with ADHD children is through acting out the SODAS worksheet. First associate colors with each step of SODAS, place paper of that color on the ground and then have the child walk from one step to the other as they complete the steps aloud.
After your child has learned Decision Making (SODAS Method), give daily assignments to use the skill. At the beginning have him/her complete a certain number of worksheets a day. As they get better at using the skill intermittently role-play the skill throughout the day and prompt them in the moment when you observe a difficult decision they need to make. Eventually assignments should center around using the skill on their own in everyday situations, and reporting each night when they used the skill.
Positive rewards and negative consequences
Positive rewards or negative consequences will provide further incentive to use the skill of Decision Making. When first introducing the skill, focus most on providing positive rewards each time the skill is used.
Establishing a chart, contract, or another reward system for kids with ADHD can be used to help your child earn a larger reward over time. After your child has learned and successfully used the skill, occasional negative consequences may be necessary if they choose not to apply the steps of the skill or participate in negative behavior.
Helping your child find a reason for how the skill will benefit them will be more effective at providing motivation than role-playing, assignments, and consequences. Explore the negative effects they’ve seen in their life from making poor decisions and have them visualize the benefits they’ll receive from applying Decision Making. Once your child is internally motivated to make positive decisions they will be a lot more willing to practice and use the skill.
I taught the SODAS Method of Decision Making to an 8th grade boy who was struggling with marijuana use, poor grades, and aggression toward his parents. At the end of the in-home intervention I explored the goals he had set at the beginning of the intervention and his use of the skills I taught him. Much to my surprise he excitedly told me stories about his use of Decision Making (SODAS Method) on a day-to- day basis. It was as if something had suddenly clicked. He was applying the skill in his mind for small decisions and he was happy he was making better decisions on his own. He had found his internal motivation to continue using the skill long-term.
Decision Making (SODAS Method) is a perfect first skill to teach to a child with ADHD. This one skill could help them at home, at school, at work, and in social situations. Then when they see success in applying the skill and how their life has improved because of it, they will be more willing to work on other skills in the future.